The chief executive of one of the country’s biggest academy chains is to step down later this academic year to play a leading role in an international schools organisation.
Julian Drinkall, chief executive of Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), will be stepping down from his post to become general manager for the new Aga Khan Schools organisation, which will deliver education across 15 countries.
He was brought in to run AET in 2016 after serious concerns were raised about the chain’s performance.
As leader of AET, Mr Drinkall has been credited by the trust for turning it around from being “on the brink of being broken up”.
He also also oversaw controversial cuts, “ultimately eliminating annual £8 million deficits”, the trust says, but which resulted in a vote of no confidence being held by staff unions in 2019.
The chair of AET, David Hall, said the multi-academy trust was now unrecognisable from the organisation that was “the bane of the sector” back in 2016.
Some of the cuts made by the trust were controversial, and AET faced the threat of vote of no confidence from staff unions in 2019, although a vote was not held.
School performance has improved across the trust during the past for four years, with improved Sats scores, GCSE results and the proportion of schools rated as “good” or better by Ofsted rising from 29 per cent to 72 per cent.
Mr Drinkall said: “I am incredibly proud of what the whole team has achieved over the past four years. When I joined AET, people said I was brave and/or mad. But it was clear to me that while there was a huge job to be done, it was doable. The AET team is extremely strong, and while the past nine months have been particularly challenging, it has spurred us all on to think harder and deeper about what and how we educate.
“The organisation has a clear roadmap for the next five years and I have every confidence that AET will continue to confound the critics of its past and become a nationally – and internationally – renowned organisation.
“His Highness the Aga Khan talks about education being a ‘high responsibility’ and that, to do it well, we must look beyond the world which is passing from sight and turn our eyes to the uncharted world of the future.
“Throughout my life, my passion has been human development, both social and economic, and so this philosophy and approach resonates with me hugely. It is also the direction of travel for AET and I am delighted that I will continue to be part of the AET family as a trustee for a period of time to support a smooth transition.”
Mr Drinkall is leaving AET in June to help establish Aga Khan Schools, which will bring together the existing Aga Khan Education Services, private, not-for-profit education networks and Aga Khan Academies.
Aga Khan Schools will operate more than 200 schools across 15 countries in East Africa, South and Central Asia, and the Middle East. The organisation will have close to 100,000 students, with a wider reach of 2 million young people, through education programmes with national and local governments and international educators.
Mr Hall said: “The AET of today is simply unrecognisable from the organisation that was the bane of the sector back in 2016.
"Under Julian’s leadership, AET is flourishing, and is now an organisation of which we can all be proud. It’s an organisation where pupils can start to forge a remarkable life, and where teachers can develop a remarkable career. Thanks to Julian, this has been nothing short of a remarkable transformation, and which sets AET on track for even greater things to come.
“In many ways, it is no surprise that someone of Julian’s talents has caught the attention of an organisation with the ideals and values of the Aga Khan Development Network.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that he will apply the same determination, vigour and clear-sightedness to this role on the global stage. At AET, we owe Julian a huge debt of gratitude and, on behalf of the board of trustees, we wish him the very best for this fantastic new opportunity.”